It's changed very little since 1936, but maybe that's the most charming thing about the Morgan 4/4.
Not only is the Morgan 4/4 the oldest car in this series, but also probably the one which has changed the least during its many decades on the market. Like the company itself, the 4/4 has a devout following. Morgan doesn’t see any reason why it shouldn’t still be selling a car which has gone basically unchanged since 1936, and apparently, enough customers think this is reasonable. No matter what your feelings are on the car itself, it has to be said that this kind of thing is actually fairly impressive, if a bit strange.
The Morgan Motor Company was founded in 1910, and even after 103 year, it is still in the Morgan family. Morgan started out building only three-wheeled cars, which had always enjoyed a certain degree of popularity in the UK as a result of having much lower taxes than four-wheeled cars. This is because they are technically classified as motorcycles, and as a bonus, are very nearly as dangerous. Morgan would eventually stop building three-wheelers, only to begin again very recently. The new car doesn’t exactly offer any kind of financial advantage, but it is not without its fans.
The 4/4 was actually the first four-wheeled car built by Morgan, and is named for its four wheels and four-cylinder engine. What with the 4/4 having entered production in 1936, the four-cylinder engine in question was producing a meager 34 horsepower. For 1936, that was really about all you could expect, but the unfortunate thing was that the next engine, which lasted from 1955 to 1960, was a side-valve Ford design which produced 36 horsepower. That was pretty thoroughly obsolete by this point, although Morgan did manage to get away with it since the car was so very, very small and light.
Things would get better in 1961, when a new bigger Ford engine was used, and horsepower got up to 62. That actually made for a pretty decent power-to-weight ratio for the time, and sales were much better throughout the Sixties than they had been in the preceding decade. Then, pretty much nothing changed until 1991, when it got fuel injection. Today, the body is about the same as it was back in 1936. It has better headlights now, and the engine is a 1.8-liter Ford Duratec which produces 125 horsepower. And although it must be highly aggravating to Morgan fans, it runs on unleaded gas.
There have been a couple of 4/4 offshoots produced over the years, and some of these have been pretty impressive. Most recently (in 2003), there was the Runabout, basically just an entry-level 4/4 model, although it’s quite difficult to imagine what could have been removed to make it entry-level. There is also the Plus 4, first introduced in 1950, which is built on an enlarged version of the 4/4 chassis and uses a larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine. That lead to the Plus 8, which was built from 1968 to 2004 with a V8 engine, but still never offered more than 220 horsepower.
Of course, much more power in a car that is small and antiquated would have probably been dangerous. It’s sometimes difficult to believe than Morgan still exists, and that it's still making cars like the 4/4. But the more antiquated the cars become, the better Morgan’s sales, with production numbers increasing every year. The reason is simple enough, Morgans are old because that’s how they want them, and for customers who want something purposely old, there is only one choice.